Kuikuru - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In 1954 marriages among the Kuikuru were 70 percent village-endogamous. Exogamous marriages were contracted mostly with other Carib-speaking Indians, especially the Kalapalo, and secondarily with the Arawak-speaking Yawalapití. Most marriages are monogamous but polygyny is permitted. Three of some forty married men in 1954 had more than one wife, two men having two wives each and the third having three. In courtship the groom must persuade the girl's parents as well as the girl herself to consent to the union. A suitor places a large load of firewood outside his would-be mother-in-law's doorway, and if she takes it in and uses it, his suit is considered accepted. The marriage ceremony consists primarily of the payment of a bride-price to the girl's parents. Should a groom lack the bride-price (usually shell necklaces and waistbands) he must perform bride-service instead. Postmarital residence is matri-patrilocal, the matri-phase usually lasting one to three months. Since the village is largely endogamous, shifts in residence at marriage generally involve, at most, a change of house. Marriages are fairly brittle and divorce is easy: a spouse merely has to move out of the house, or even just to the opposite end of the house, to accomplish it.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the basic domestic unit, and there are usually three to five of them in a communal house. Each nuclear family has its own hearth near one of the center posts, and the family's hammocks radiate out from this post to various wall posts. A wife strings her hammock beneath her husband's so she can tend the night fire more readily. Coresidents of a communal house frequently cooperate in subsistence and food processing, even if they are not closely related.

Inheritance . At the death of the owner, no material property passes from one generation to the next. Some of it is buried with the deceased, and the rest is broken and thrown away. Thus, a woman's pots may be broken and dropped into the river, the idea being to keep surviving kin from seeing them again and being reminded of the death of a loved one. An exception to the rule against inheritance of material property is provided by fruit trees. Any piquí trees a man planted pass to his sons at his death. Each Kuikuru ceremony has an owner, and at his death, ownership of that ceremony is transferred to his heir, who may be a daughter.

Socialization. Children are treated indulgently and raised permissively. They are virtually never beaten or even spanked, physical punishment being seriously frowned upon. When a child has a tantrum a parent will often walk away, leaving persons in the rest of the village to laugh at the angry child, which usually puts an end to the outburst. By the age of 6, a girl is learning adult domestic chores, including manioc processing, and by 8, she may already be adept at spinning cotton. Boys are not expected to learn adult skills so young. During puberty seclusion, both sexes spend from several months to a year or even two living within a specially partitioned section of the house. At this time they are expected to learn or perfect various adult arts and crafts.

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